Trail Queen: 5 Questions With Rory Bosio

Rory Bosio running in La Flegere at the UTMB last month. Photo: The North Face

The pediatric intensive care nurse recently won the women’s division at The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc for the second straight year.

Ultrarunner Rory Bosio likes to keep things in perspective. The 30-year old North Face-sponsored athlete runs because it’s fun and it gets her outside in the mountains she loves.

Being good at what she loves certainly makes life sweeter, like winning the women’s division of The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in France—for trail runners, that’s akin to the Super Bowl and World Series rolled into one, a long, stunningly beautiful, and difficult run around Mont Blanc— in 2013. Her time of 22:37:26 topped Krissy Moehl’s course record by more than two hours and she became the first women to break into the top-10 finisher’s club. Bosio was even dressed for the occasion — she ran the 106 miles in TNF’s appropriately named Eat My Dust Skirt. (Bosio also won the race in 2014.)

When she’s not training for long races, you may find Bosio doing yoga, dancing the night away, eating burgers, toasting life with a mojito, hiking in the nearest hills with her family, or caring for children at her job as a pediatric intensive care nurse in Tahoe, Calif. We caught up with Bosio when she was unwinding with her family during a hiking holiday in Switzerland.

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Let’s start with UTMB. You had an amazing race, was it what you were expecting?

It was, and now with some distance, I think I have selective running memory because I’ve forgotten the low points, yes — they happen, and mainly remember how much I loved the race and the experience.

I started off holding myself in check, which was hard. This race has so much energy and excitement around it that it starts fast. But it usually takes me at least 20 miles or so to warm up, so I kept a steady rhythm and stuck to my plan. By the second major climb, I decided it was time to test my legs, pushed over the top and kept on running. I started to pass some people, it got dark, the stars came out and I enjoyed some of the most pleasant night running I’ve ever experienced.

At the halfway point, I knew I was in the lead, but wasn’t expecting to keep it. It got a little foggy and both my headlamps died and I had a slow decent. But then, the sun started to come out and it was amazing. I don’t usually run at that hour of the day, and it was just beautiful — the sunrise, early morning mist and absolute stillness gave me a sense of calm.

I had some low-points towards the end, but I saw one of my friends and he told me it was time to dig deep. So I did and gave it all I had. I thought I was sprinting at the end, but I’ve since seen the finish video and that wasn’t quite the case! The finish is rather overwhelming. I just wanted to lie down, but you really can’t with the crowds, cameras and festivities, but it was a wonderful experience.

How do you put a race of that magnitude in perspective for people training for events like a 10K, half marathon or marathon?

I think there are common threads through all training and racing. I was intimidated. I didn’t know if I could handle the climbing. I didn’t know if I could do it. For any race, you have to train. Once you’ve done the physical work, you have to overcome the self-doubt.

The pain of a half-marathon strikes me as torture. It’s fast, requires a high heart rate and is more intense. I’m better going for a long, slow burn. I get in my mind that I’ll be on my feet for a long time and accept it. My pain will last longer, but the intensity will be different.

Tackling a different distance is about shifting perspective, preparing and accepting the challenge. Beyond that, it’s about enduring the low-points and suffering and coming out on the other side. That holds true for any distance. Breaking a long race up into manageable chunks (aid station to aid station if you need to) helps.

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What’s your fueling and hydrating strategy when you race?

I often mix GU and Clif shot blocks in with real food. But many Europeans prefer to get all their fuel from whole food, so I tried it. I always make a mix of steamed sweet potatoes, olive oil and salt, mash it up and put in a bag. I can squeeze it into my mouth as I run, kind of like a pastry bag of sweet potatoes. It is easy on my stomach and a good source of carbohydrates. I also ate a homemade trail mix of nuts, chocolate and fruit, drank lots of coffee and Coca-Cola and drank some yogurt drink. I get hungry when I run, and put a little bites of something into my mouth every 10 minutes or so. I drink to thirst.

How did you get into ultrarunning?

I grew up with Laura Vaughn (an ultrarunner who’s dad, William, created GU energy gels). I would run with her, but even before that, I spent lots of time hiking with my family. I grew up in Tahoe, and we were always outside. I was also familiar with Western States, so trails and distance were what I knew.

My first race was the Silver State 50K — I loved it! But then I went back to nursing school and didn’t have much time to run. In 2010, the GU team offered me a slot for Western States and I decided I had to try it. I’ve run it every year since! 100-milers are definitely my favorite distance. I’m not super-speedy. It takes me a while to get going and I like the slow burn of a long race.

You are quite the yoga-aficionado, I think you call yourself a yoga polygamist! How does yoga fit into your training?

I’ve done yoga since high school and think it is a great balance to running, for all runners. Running can be jarring and hard on your joints. Yoga is the exact opposite. It uses your entire body and is good for arm and core strength. I think it helps me mentally and also helps my running. I like all kinds of yoga, but am still not good at it — It’s definitely a challenge for me!

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